Today is going to be a busy day for a pair of Las Vegas-area basketball products, as both Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad are certain to hear their names called during the first round of the NBA Draft.
Bennett’s wait should be short, as he’s one of the consensus top talents available in the draft and an outside candidate to go first overall. Muhammad will wait a bit longer, as most mock drafts have him pegged anywhere from the top 10 to the mid-20s.
Before last season, the draft stock of Bennett and Muhammad were reversed. Muhammad, a Bishop Gorman grad headed to UCLA for an obvious one-and-done season, was the No. 2 player in his high school class and widely viewed as a surefire NBA star. Bennett was more of a question mark, due to an inconsistent and injury-plagued high school career at Findlay Prep.
But while Bennett exploded in his one season at UNLV, showcasing elite athleticism and a polished offensive game, Muhammad struggled initially at UCLA. Muhammad was surrounded by controversy almost from the very beginning, and he had to fight the NCAA for eligibility. And his season ended on a down note as well, with the Los Angeles Times revealing that he was actually a year older than he had always claimed.
Bennett’s pre-draft experience hasn’t been all smooth sailing either, as a shoulder injury has kept him from working out for NBA teams. Bennett has also reportedly gained weight while recovering from the injury, which has given some teams pause.
But NBA teams seem more willing to gamble on Bennett’s upside as a prolific frontcourt scorer. An NBA scout told me last month that Bennett is viewed as a top-10 talent in the eyes of most teams, and it doesn’t appear as though he’ll slip beyond that range in the draft.
Here’s where each player is projected to go on Thursday night, as predicted by a handful of mock drafts:
Anthony Bennett, Fr., UNLV
Pick ? Team ? Source
No. 3 ? Washington ? nbadraft.net
No. 8 ? Detroit ? espn.com
No. 8 ? Detroit ? draftexpress.com
No. 6 ? New Orleans ? si.com
No. 7 ? Sacramento ? usatoday.com
Shabazz Muhammad, Fr., UCLA
Pick ? Team ? Source
No. 19 ? Cleveland ? nbadraft.net
No. 18 ? Atlanta ? espn.com
No. 16 ? Boston ? draftexpress.com
No. 9 ? Minnesota ? si.com
No. 15 ? Milwaukee ? usatoday.com
Bennett’s average draft position in those mocks is No. 6, while Muhammad is No. 15. But will it actually play out that way on Thursday night? Drafts are notoriously volatile, and predicting them is almost impossible.
But no matter when they go, the Bishop Gorman, Findlay Prep and UNLV basketball progams ? as well as Las Vegas itself ? can celebrate a banner night for the area’s basketball reputation.
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